Aug. 27, 2014

Forced dispossession of Japanese Canadians subject of multi-partner project and exhibit

Thousands of Canadians of Japanese ancestry on the west coast of Canada were systematically uprooted from their homes during the Second World War and the federal government sold their property—including homes, businesses, fishing boats, cars and personal effects—without consent. Landscapes of Injustice, a new seven-year research project led by the University of Victoria with 13 partner institutions, will document this forced dispossession and will culminate in a cross-country tour of a new interactive museum exhibition.

Today, the federal government announced a $2.5 million partnership grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to support this multi-sector, multi-partner project. Participating institutions have committed $3 million in matching contributions to supplement the grant.

“We risk overlooking the most important lessons of our past if we do not hold deep conversations about the legacies of twentieth-century racism,” says project director and associate history professor Dr. Jordan Stanger-Ross of UVic’s Faculty of Humanities. “These events caused lasting harms and material hardship that stretch across multiple generations. Like other shameful episodes of history, they may seem to belong to a distant past, to a history left behind by multicultural Canada. In reality, however, the past is not so easily escaped.”

“With the many community partners, this project represents the best of community engagement,” says Dr. Lynne Marks, chair of UVic’s history department. “At a total of $5.5 million and 14 institutions, it is one of the biggest research projects in the field of humanities in Canada.”

The project will create teaching materials for elementary and secondary school classes; educational websites; scholarly and popular publications; public events; and a traveling museum exhibition. Partners include four cultural centres and museums, four historical societies and learning associations, and four universities. The project is affiliated with UVic’s Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives.

Acclaimed Canadian writer Joy Kogawa, who is a member of the Landscapes of Injustice advisory board and personally experienced the injustices of internment and dispossession in the 1940s, reflects on the importance of the project: “Like 22,000 other ‘enemy aliens’ during World War II, our family was dispossessed back in the 1940s. Our homes fell en masse into the trustworthy hands of the Custodian of Enemy Alien Properties for ‘safekeeping.’ Eventually we all learned what safekeeping meant. Safe, but not for us. Keeping, but not for us. None of us returned home. This project will unearth such stories and bring hidden truths into the light of day. It reassures me that injustice is not the final word.”

Follow on Twitter @LandscapesInjus (#1942dispossession) and

The travelling museum exhibition will commence in 2019.

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Media contacts:
Dr. Jordan Stanger-Ross (History) at 250-661-6523 or
Tara Sharpe (University Communications + Marketing) at 250-721-7636 or
Suzanne Ahearne (University Communications + Marketing) at 250-721-6139 or